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Eero Saarinen, "The American Embassy in Oslo". Photo: K. Teigen, 1959

The American Embassy in Oslo. Photographs by Karl Teigen

15 February 2013–16 June 2013

The National Museum – Architecture

The building that houses the Embassy of the United States of America in Oslo was designed by the Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen (1910–1961). At the time of the building’s official opening in 1959, Saarinen was an international celebrity, with a status roughly equivalent to today’s “starchitects”. He also designed the American Embassy in London, which was completed in 1960. Saarinen’s other projects included the David S. Ingall Hockey Rink at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut (1956) and the Trans World Airlines Terminal at JFK International Airport in New York (1956–62).

Karl Teigen photographed the American Embassy in Oslo in the spring of 1959. Teigen’s photographs of the Embassy building are a high point of Norwegian modernist architectural photography and were used to illustrate a feature on the building in the Norwegian architectural review Byggekunst.The photographs in the exhibition are drawn from the museum’s own architectural collections, which include a large quantity of paper positives fromByggekunst’s editorial department, mainly dating from 1950-1970.

The thoughtfully composed idiom of architectural photography is easily recognisable. Often featuring large empty surfaces, the compositions have a strict sense of order. People are often absent, with any human presence being often for decorative purposes or to provide a sense of scale. In general, Karl Teigen’s work follows the established principles of modernist architectural photography.

Teigen’s images of the Embassy also provide us with valuable evidence of the building’s original design and interiors. The U.S. Embassy is now set to move out of the building.